Having a healthier Labor Day barbecue

By Celeste Tholen Rosenlof | Posted - Aug 31st, 2013 @ 3:29pm



NOM NOM CITY — Unless you’re a brave year-round grill master, Labor Day may be one of the last opportunities for you to host a barbecue.

If you want to celebrate Monday, but you’re hoping for something healthier than the standard fares, we’ve got some tips and alternatives for you.

Meat

Burgers and hot dogs are standard fare for a Labor Day barbecue, but grills are capable of so much more. Grilling is just a healthy cooking method, since it doesn’t require the addition of any fat, and allows the meat’s excess fat to drip away.

That said, avoid drenching your meats in sauces and opt for spices and rubs instead. Though they add flavor, sauces add loads of sugar and sodium.

If you want something totally different, try kabobs at your Labor Day feast. Load the skewers with vegetables and suddenly, your meat serving stretches a lot further and seems more satiating. Add some protein-rich mushrooms, sweet cherry tomatoes and crispy green peppers for flavor and filling. If you want some sauce, swap the sodium- and sugar-laden barbecue sauce in favor of some refreshing tzatziki – a Greek cucumber and yogurt dip.

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Potato salad

This one is tough, because sometimes, you can’t get away from grandma’s potato salad that everyone prefers.

If you can stray from the all-American mayo, mustard, eggs and Russett potato salad, try using olive oil and lemon juice to moisten the dish instead of mayonnaise. Throw in some herbs and other vegetables for flavor, fiber and other nutrients to balance out the natural sugars in the Russett. While you’re at it, keep the skins on the potatoes for even more fiber.

Another mayonnaise replacement? Plain Greek yogurt. You can just use that, or mix it up with some sour cream for a tangy and healthier alternative than mayonnaise, which is filled with saturated fats and sodium. An added bonus of using Greek yogurt? Plenty of potassium.

This suggestion toes the line of keeping tradition and blazing forward: use different potatoes. If you have to skin the potatoes to keep the peace, so be it. Try some reds, yukon golds or even blue if you’re feeling adventurous. Get an increased amount of potassium, antioxidants, calcium and magnesium with a different potato. Plus, red and gold potatoes hold together better than Russetts after boiling.

Jell-O Salad

With 19 grams of sugar – that’s without Cool Whip – Jell-O is a bonus dessert in the middle of your dinner that's also full of sodium and artificial ingredients.

If you’re ready to hand over the Jell-O and get healthy, make a fruit salad. It can be the standard melon, pineapple and grape salad, or you can use stone fruits, berries, apples or citrus as the base and add herbs, nuts, cheeses or even some vegetables for variety.

Since you’ve got the grill out, though, why not barbecue your fruit? Stone fruits like peaches, nectarines and plums are delicious warmed over the grill, as is pineapple. No sugar necessary here: the heat will bring out the sweetness of the fruit just fine (though, if you want to turn it into a dessert, dollop a little whipped cream atop a peach).

What other tips do you have? Tell us in the comments section.

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Celeste Tholen Rosenlof

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